Crazy BOPARC Public Meeting Lasted Only 6 Minutes: Morgantown City Police Requested to Stand GUARD at Future Meetings [video]

2024 BOPARC Board Meeting Video

BOPARC's first monthly public meeting of 2024 was held at 3:00 PM on January 10th at Marilla Park Center in Sabraton.

For one of the first times in city history, this public meeting was video recorded (by WVMAD) so the public could see what BOPARC is up to. We anticipated an hour or two of heated discussion, given BOPARC has a 13.9 million dollar budget.

According to previous meeting minutes, the public rarely attends. Wednesday's meeting had zero members of the public.

There were only four fold-out chairs. A Dominion Post reporter took the first seat and Morgantown Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli took the last.

Why so few? The meetings start at 3:00 PM when most hard-working Morgantowners are still at work.

We emailed Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin a week ago about the public's desire to move BOPARC public meetings to a later evening time. After all, even the City's regular business hours go until 5:30 PM. Mayor Selin did not bother to respond.

BOPARC Executive Director Meslissa Wiles
BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Wiles stares at the camera after she snaps a photo of WVMAD

BOPARC to request Morgantown police officers stand guard at all future public meetings

Things got weird before the board meeting even started.

WVMAD's videographer recounts, "While setting up the camcorder tripod in the back of the room, Melissa Wiles [BOPARC Executive Director] came up to me, said her name, and stuck out her hand. I said hello, told her my first name only, and shook her hand. Then she asked, 'Last name!?' in an annoyed tone. I asked, do I have to give that? I'm just here to film."

Continuing, "I felt like prey. I could tell they really, really desired my full identity. I tightened the strings on my hoodie and didn't answer any more of their questions."

The vibe in the room changed. The entire room stopped talking. Defeated in not extracting our videographer's last name, Melissa returned to her seat.

Then, another board member asked Melissa if they should email Morgantown Chief of Police Eric Powell to bring in a police presence at all future BOPARC meetings, for "security" reasons.

Melissa excitedly replied, "Yes!"

Keep in mind, WVMAD's videographer was only there to video tape the meeting, and remained quiet in the back of the room, out of the way. However, it is no secret that WVMAD has been investigating BOPARC these past several months.

So, this begs the question: is BOPARC's police request an attempt to intimidate those recording their public meetings? We wonder.

Morgantown Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli
Morgantown Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli exchanges words with WVMAD

Bizarre behaviors, the City is not used to public scrutiny

The meeting started late due to the tardy City Attorney, Ryan Simonton.

Almost everyone was making side-eye glares at the video camera.

Beyond the 2023 ice arena controversy, we could not find any video record of BOPARC meetings. Unlike city council meetings, which are recorded to the city's YouTube page, BOPARC seemed uneasy about having a camera there.

Although, some members did not pay us much attention and conducted themselves professionally, including Cal Carlson, Meridith Balas, Jenny Thoma, and Ryan Simonton. Amel Morris was not present.

However, both Mayor Selin and Melissa Wiles took out their smartphones and snapped pictures of WVMAD's videographer. Was it some form of childish "retaliation" for having their photograph taken? They are public government officials having a public meeting. WVMAD is just reporting the news.

Board member, Susan Klingensmith, asked if she should smile and was making faces at the camera, unprompted.

Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli (with a taxpayer-funded salary of $112,674.12) berated WVMAD's videographer over the noise made by the camera's mechanical shutter. She implied photos should not be taken at future meetings because the camera makes a "click" sound. Muzzarelli made the bold claim that the sound made it too hard for her to hear the extremely important 6 minute meeting.

City of Morgantown Mayor Jennifer Jenny Selin
City of Morgantown Mayor Jennifer "Jenny" Selin captures a picture of WVMAD taking a picture

BOPARC has a $13.9 million budget, yet the first public meeting of 2024 lasted only six minutes. Where is the leadership and oversight?

You may be wondering what BOPARC discussed. Most of the discussion was the board complimenting each other or talking about how great the ice arena is (and stay tuned for WVMAD's upcoming ice arena investigation).

In fact, the board complimenting each other is very common. For 2023, we counted a whopping 58 thank you's, compliments, and pats on the back. For all of last year, only 2 board members issued a criticism; Danielle Trumble expressed a "fracture" from the board about the ice arena closure and Amel Morris expressed shock at BOPARC's Eureka Cafe, a government-run coffee shop.

Wednesday's meeting had no mention of financial details. No mention of how money is spent. No talk of a 2024 vision or grand plan. Can Morgantown ever have a world-class city without deliberate, intentional leadership and planning?

A track record of secret meetings

If we take a look at previous minutes, such as July 13, 2022: there was a 12-minute public meeting and a two-hour private executive session.

This month's six minute meeting will also likely have a long executive session.

Unfortunately, most of BOPARC's recent minutes do not state the executive session start time. So we will never know how long those closed-door meetings lasted.

Minutes from the previous August, September, and October barely fill half a sheet of paper.

It appears lengthy BOPARC discussions are being held behind locked doors with no transparency. And now, public meetings will be held under the watchful eye of BOPARC's private guards, lurking over anyone who dares to show up and hold the city accountable.

What do you think, Morgantown? Should BOPARC move their meetings to a later time and have in-depth public discussions so the community can have a say over their government?